Tonight, 15-year-old Jarrius “JJ” Robertson, who has been battling a chronic liver disease since he was just a few weeks old, will be honored with the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award at the 25th ESPYs.
Robertson first met the Saints in 2015, and has since become the team’s hype man and social media coordinator.
Read on to find out what you need to know about Jarrius Robertson.
1. He Has Undergone Two Liver Transplants and 13 Surgeries in 15 Years
Robertson has biliary atresia, a chronic liver disease that occurs when one or more bile ducts are narrow, blocked, or absent.
Jarrius’ father, Jordy Robertson, was in high school when he had Jordy. In 2015, Jordy explained to NewOrleansSaints.com, “[Jarrius] was diagnosed with liver failure at the age of six months… throughout the process he underwent one liver transplant in 2004, and after the liver transplant he had multiple failures. He stayed in a coma a whole year, went through numerous surgeries and he’s currently on the waiting list for another liver transplant.”
In April, JJ underwent surgery for that liver transplant. Not long after, his father said that he was recovering well.
2. He Is a Saints Super Fan
JJ first met the Saints during a 2015 hospital visit, and Jordy Robertson tells NewOrleansSaints.com that JJ was extremely excited before meeting the team. “(The Saints’ visit) inspired him. We tried to hide it from him, hide it from him, we couldn’t and he couldn’t sleep. He stayed up all night just thinking about it, wondering what he was going to say. I told him, ‘Just go ahead and be you.’”
Last October, while JJ was being interviewed on ABC’s Good Morning America, Saints coach Sean Peyton surprised him with a visit and made Jarrius an “honorary Saint” and invited him to join the team that weekend in Kansas. Jarrius excitedly took the pen he was offered to sign the contract, exclaiming, “You don’t have to tell me twice!” Payton dubbed Jarrius the team’s social media correspondent. “Heck, we’re gonna put you in charge of all the media. You’re just gonna be in charge.”
3. He Was in a Coma for Nearly a Year
JJ received a new liver shortly after his first birthday. Later on, he caught pneumonia, and his lung collapsed. According to his bio on It Takes Lives to Save Lives, he was placed on a respirator and doctors had to induce a coma– JJ was in the coma for nearly a year.
JJ’s mom recalls, “Five, six times we were told he wasn’t going to make it… Then they told us for the seventh time. He was still on the respirator.” His father adds on, “We didn’t want to see him suffer no more… So we finally signed the papers to let him go … papers to remove the respirator and let him go.”
When the respirator was taken away, however, JJ was breathing on his own. Doctors had no explanation. “It was a miracle – nothing but God,” JJ’s mother says.
4. He Is Receiving the Jimmy V Perseverance Award Tonight
Tonight, Jarrius will be receiving the Jimmy V Persevarance Award, named after the late Jim Valvano who gave a moving speech at the 1993 ESPYS while battling cancer.
Speaking about Jarrius to WGNO ABC recently, Saints quarterback Drew Brees said, “Jarrius is such an inspirational young man… His strength, determination and resolve along with his infectious energy and attitude should be an example that no matter the circumstances or adversity with a positive outlook and embracing the motto of ‘Don’t Give Up… Don’t Ever Give Up’ there isn’t a challenge that cannot be conquered.”
Coach Sean Peyton added, “As a coach, I am sure that Coach Valvano would love the energy and enthusiasm Jarrius brings to each day. He would be proud to know that his mission of never giving up has been embraced by a young man who represents all the qualities that he looked for in a person. Jarrius is a perfect torch bearer for the Jimmy V Perseverance Award as his story and mission of ‘It takes lives to Save lives’ resonates and touches everyone on so many different levels.”
5. There Is a Go Fund Me Page to Help Pay for Jarrius’s Medical Bills
A Go Fund Me Page has been created to help pay for Jarrius’ medical bills.
In the eight months the page has been live, fans of JJ have raised $33,635– all of which will go towards his medical bills and “making his current fight go as strong as possible.”